Simplification of outline planning applications

Simplification of outline planning applications


Author: Kirsten Hewson

The Government has continued its measures to streamline the planning process with the publication of the Town and Country (Development Management Procedure) (England) (Amendment No 3) Order 2012 (DMPO), which came into effect on 31 January 2013.

The effect of this amendment to the DMPO is to reduce the information required for outline planning applications and on some schemes make the planning system less onerous and more efficient for the promotion of outline planning applications.
This is of particular interest to strategic landowners and developers, as it means you do not have to fix the layout of the scheme at the outline stage.
The previous requirements for outline planning applications meant that the applicant had to identify the approximate locations of the buildings which were proposed, and the routes through and open spaces relating to that development.
The effect of this publication is that where an application has layout reserved for a subsequent reserved matter application, this information will not be required at the outline stage.
In addition, where scale has been identified on the outline application as a reserved matter, there will not be a requirement for stating the upper and lower limits of height, width and length of the buildings, again reducing the amount of paperwork and design needed to be submitted as part of the outline application.
Whilst these amendments do not take us back to a traditional outline consent - where a red line around the site established just the principle without any further detail - it is moving back towards less paperwork and less up front cost in submitting an outline planning application.
However, the amendment to the DMPO will not be effective for all outline planning applications. Large schemes, which require an environmental impact assessment due to the significant environmental impact they may create, will still need to be supported by sufficient information to assess the environmental impact of the scheme.
Therefore parameters within the environmental impact assessment will need to be set. It is usual for layout and the building envelope of height, width and footprint to be fixed in the environmental statement.
The DMPO requires that after 31 July 2013 applications must be submitted with all supporting documents as required by a local list published by each local authority. Every local authority must publish by 31 July a local list of information that is required to be submitted with planning applications.

This list must be complied with if it is up to date, meaning published within two years prior to the date of the planning application.
This may give rise to an additional burden on developers, who will need to assess what requirements each authority has and whether its list is valid, but in most cases it should provide certainty as to documents to be submitted - with the result that there should not be significant delay in registration of applications.
We anticipate that there will be more small amendments like this over the next 24 months, as the Government searches for ways to streamline the process without the time and cost of variation to primary legislation.